Neuronal control of Drosophila walking

Project opportunity

This Earmarked Scholarship project is aligned with a recently awarded Category 1 research grant. It offers you the opportunity to work with leading researchers and contribute to large projects of national significance.

To survive in the wild, terrestrial animals must be able to navigate over constantly changing terrain in pursuit of specific goals, such as locating food or mates or avoiding predators or other dangers. One of the most commonly used locomotion strategies is legged walking, which is employed by species ranging from insects to humans, separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Understanding the neural basis for adaptive walking behaviour is a challenging and important problem in basic neuroscience. The fruit fly Drosophila is an attractive model in which to seek this understanding. The fly has a compact nervous system of ~105 neurons (compared to ~1011 neurons in humans), yet nonetheless is an extremely agile walker. Moreover, Drosophila offers a sophisticated set of genetic reagents to access and manipulate individual neurons. Every neuron in the Drosophila central nervous system is reproducibly identifiable, and maps of the entire set of synaptic connections amongst these neurons are available. In this project, we aim to understand how motor circuits adaptively switch between forward and backward walking. Brain neurons that elicit backward and forward walking in Drosophila have been identified by our and other labs, and we will use these neurons as entry points to investigate the motor circuits they control. We anticipate that a mechanistic understanding of this exquisite neural control system will provide fundamental insights into the organization of natural neural networks, and may ultimately inspire and enable engineers to design more powerful artificial neural networks, more agile robots, and better neuroprosthetics.

Scholarship value

As a scholarship recipient, you'll receive: 

  • living stipend of $32,192 per annum tax free (2023 rate), indexed annually
  • tuition fees covered
  • single Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)


Professor Barry Dickson

Queensland Brain Institute


Preferred educational background

Your application will be assessed on a competitive basis.

We take into account your

  • previous academic record
  • publication record
  • honours and awards
  • employment history.

A working knowledge of neuroscience would be of benefit to someone working on this project.

The applicant will demonstrate academic achievement in the field(s) of neuroscience and the potential for scholastic success.

A background or knowledge of genetics is highly desirable.

Latest commencement date

If you are the successful candidate, you must commence by Research Quarter 2, 2023. You should apply at least 3 months prior to the research quarter commencement date.

If you are an international applicant, you may need to apply much earlier for visa requirements.

How to apply

You apply for this project as part of your PhD program application.

View application process